030918 Maximum power output

030918 Maximum power output, as many strength athletes already know, results from using loads in the intensity ranges of 30-40 % one repetition maximum. But the maximal coefficient of reactivity will be obtained by utilizing weight loads in the 30-33 % ranges.

Strength training will increase explosive power. But training cannot be confined exclusively to strength regimens, some of it must be in the power percentages.

Just as all training abides by certain guidelines, so does strength and power, as can be seen in the following chart first devised by A.S. Prilipin in 1974.

Prilepins table

040618 The general principles of the warm up 1/4

040618 The general principles of the warm up 1/4

The warm up session starts with exercises that are low in intensity, progressing up to the actual work out movements. Starting with high intensity exercises leaves little left in reserve for the main work out. The body quickly uses its stored muscle glycogen and increases the lactate levels in the blood when engaged in high intensity work. When the lactate increases the free fatty acids decrease leaving less to help produce energy. You don’t get into your car on a cold morning and go racing out the drive way and onto the expressway at maximum speed. It’s the same for our bodies; warm them up for the tasks ahead.

General principles of arranging warm up exercises normally follow few these guidelines. Start from the distant joints and work toward the center or proximal portion of the body, from one end to the other or from top to bottom or vice versa. The exercises move from one into another so that the end of one move floats directly into the start of the next movement. This is also how a regular strength training session should be set up.

A solid warm-up will take anywhere from twenty to forty minutes. Many people don’t have the time to take this long so adaptations will have to be made by taking into account the total length of the exercise session. If the intensity of the workout is high then the warm up will, of necessity, be longer. Longer warm up periods would be in order for the explosive sports endeavors such as sprinting and the more difficult technical sessions. Aerobic and endurance exercise periods need much less, as the pre stages of these activities are in and of themselves a warm up.

Repeating the same warm up in successive workouts is not beneficial to the athlete as the goals of each workout are not necessarily the same, thus the warm up should reflect the workout goal. The warm up should prepare the athlete for the workout; bearing this in mind the last minutes of the warm up will be more or less specific to the first training exercises and ultimately blend into the actual workout itself. After the session has started then each different move will be preceded by its own specific but short warm up as the training continues onward.

040618 Loading patterns

040618 Loading patterns

Successful training programs apply a number of loading variations to consistently challenge the neuromuscular system. These range from the simple pyramid to the flat pyramid.

The basic pyramid loading pattern has been an effective tool for many successful strength enthusiasts. In this commonly used pattern the load progressively increases as the repetitions and sets decrease. For example after a general and a movement specific warm up the practitioner will begin with a set of five to six repetitions at 85% of the 1RM. After an appropriate rest interval this initial set is followed by another set of three to for repetitions at 90% of 1RM. Successful completion of these preliminary sets leads to a set of two to three repetitions at 95 1RM. The final set is at 100% with one repetition. This completes the sequence at this basic level.

The double pyramid begins as the basic. However, once the scheme reaches the 95% level, it repeats the 95% load. The schedule then calls for a set at 90% for two repetitions, which is followed by sets at 85% for three repetitions and a final one at 80 for repetitions.

A skewed pyramid improves upon the double pyramid in this aspect; the load constantly increases throughout the session until the last where a built in taper appears. The last set is performed, with good form, as quickly as possible.

The major disadvantage to all of these layouts is the load varies greatly between light to heavy. The load goes from hypertrophy to maximum strength. Nothing is worked effectively. There is a more efficient method of becoming powerful.

The flat pyramid loading pattern provides the maximum training outcome. Maximal strength gains result from intensity levels above 80%. The lower ranges contribute very little to the eventual outcome of power, unless the goal is speed development. Neurological adaptations occur as the physiological stresses exceed the 80% 1RM.

Keeping the intensity level in the correct strength building range throughout the entire series is the forte of the flat pyramid. The body is not confused by wide percentage changes of intensity and adapts to the imposed load.

The flat pyramid begins with a specific movement warm up then moves right into the strength ranges of intensity. The chart shows this scheme very well.

70% 80% 80% 80% 80% 70%
80% 90% 90% 90% 90% 80%
86% 95% 95% 95% 95% 85%

*Serious Strength Training,
Bompa, T.O., Pasquale, M.D., and Cornacchia. L. J.
Human Kinetics, 2003

Various load patterns can be developed with the flat pyramid. Focus on the objective and insert the proper percentage of intensity in the working portions of the scheme, i.e. the center four sets at the chosen percentage values represent the target goal levels.

110217 The process of learning a skilled movement

110217 The process of learning a skilled movement


Before getting into some basic information about learning a skilled movement, let’s dispense with two training myths.

Myths abound in the world of sports and this is especially so in the strength game. Two major ones have caused no end of problems for trainees and coaches alike for years and years now. These two myths will, if followed, set your training back. This is a steadfast guarantee.

Myth #1 Practice makes perfect

  • Everyone has heard the phrase “practice makes perfect” and sad to say, many still believe this to be true. Well, it’s not, for as Dr. Stuart McGill says, “practice makes permanent,” therefore, if your practice technique is poor, it continues to make these poor patterns even more difficult to change into correct ones later on.

Myth #2 “No pain, no gain”

  • Following this outdated advice will eventually lead to an injury. An injury is a signal from your body that something is wrong…continuing with what is wrong, only increases the potential for greater damage. This sets your progress back while you recuperate.

Now that these two erroneous myths have been somewhat debunked, we’ll move onto the main topic of learning a new skill.

Learning a new skill takes time, expert guidance, patience, and a willingness to practice the skill correctly each time…repeatedly correct over and over. In the early stages of learning a skilled movement, reliance falls mostly on the voluntary nervous system (VNS) and its ability to make the movement somewhat reasonably correct. However, continuing to rely on the VNS will eventually leave you behind if speed and quickness are involved. The same is true when depending on the VNS when during a heavy lift will.

There cannot be any extraneous thought going on when doing these types of movements. It simply takes too long for the body to recognize the thought cues while responding when developing the speed, quickness, and coordination to move the body or heavy weight. Thus, the automatic, reflexive processes come into play, or let us say should come into play if the training has been appropriate.

Scientists have long known that the unskilled athlete, during the early learning phases:

  • produces and relies on inefficient neuromuscular patterns of force development,
  • varying degrees of intensity which may or may not contribute to the ultimate goal, and
  • timing during the movement that is oft times inefficient and ineffective
  • muscle recruitment that serves no useful purpose when trying to control the movement

It is commonplace to see a new lifter flop around, strain, twist, and contort their body in an effort to use brute force to complete the lift. Had they learned the correct way in the beginning, their exertions would have been less strenuous and more productive.

Additionally, these nonproductive extra actions cause unwanted tension between varying muscle groups, which in and of themselves may be a contributing factor to an injury.

Neglecting the basic rule of doing the movement correctly predisposes the athlete to an unnecessary injury.


280915 Finding the right strength coach

Finding the right strength coach

Now you have found that tomorrows take on a life of their own with a long history of tomorrows and nothing to show for the time spent. You need an expert to get you on the path of better fitness.

Finding a strength coach that fits your needs as a participating athlete in the strength sports involves more than simply signing your name to a gym membership. A good coach is a valuable asset when it comes to getting strong. Every good coach will have many if not all of the following characteristics.


Does their personality complement yours with the development of a positive working relationship during the strength training sessions? Do they do this by presenting you with constructive comments about technique, the program schedule, and the mental attitude necessary to reach your desired goals? On the other hand, do they grate on your nerves with annoying mannerisms, sayings, constant chatter unrelated to the training, or (you fill in the blank(s) here)

They must be respectful of the coach/trainee relationship while at the same time adjusting to your needs in the gym, under the bar. Do not tolerate harsh, unwarranted criticism. Examples abound in some gyms of the coaches yelling at their trainees for no apparent purpose other than out of shear frustration for their, the coaches, inability to get a point across to the trainee or to be able to properly teach them correct technique.

Is the atmosphere your coach creates one that makes you want to do your best the majority of the time when around them? If not, what needs to change? Don’t just stick around thinking things will get better. If it hasn’t in quite some time, what makes you think it will soon change?

Look at the coaches qualifications. Not just their certifications but also their history of involvement in the strength sports. What kind of experience have they had? Are they up to day with the latest scientific aspects of becoming stronger or are they stuck in an earlier time? Are they current in their AED, CPR, and first aid certificates? Ask to see their NSCA or ACSM certification. Is it up to date?

Keep in mind you can buy a certification off the internet for as low as $99.00. You get what you pay for and that is not much with these types of organizations.

When they demonstrate an exercise, does it appear they know how to do it, or are they winging it for your benefit? Look at how other coaches in the gym are conducting their sessions; do any of them stand out as a better fit than the one in front of you making their spiel?

Is the gym too loud, not only with weights clanging but with the vocal noise levels. Are people shouting to hear their workout partner or to talk to them? How about the music or in most cases the lack there of, of anything closely resembling music. There are some who believe the louder the better, but your ears can only tolerate so much before they are damaged. It is nice to be able to lift heavy weights but it is also nice to be able to hear after you leave the gym too.

Pay attention to what you are getting yourself into by making a good decision on your coach. When it comes to your health and strength training aspirations, every detail counts.


020915 Is this the way you train your athletes?

Is this the way you train your athletes?

So there I was searching the internet for strength training thoughts and ideas when I ran across a photo posted on a Cro..F.. site. You fill in the blank letters. Here was a guy hunched over a barbell with what looked to be two twenty-five pound bumper plates on both ends of the bar.

When I say hunched [1]over that is exactly what I mean, he was literally hunched over the bar. His shoulders were rounded forward and at least 4-6 inches in front of the bar as he leaned over it. What’s worse was the fact that his back was one rounded semi-circle from the base of his neck to the starting of his ass. His neck was extended backward until it formed almost a 90-degree angle with his rounded back.

Moreover, the photo showed him with his elbows, which looked to be, pushing in on his knees forcing him in to a valgus position before he even started lifting the weigh off the floor. This in and of itself should have been a clue to the person squatting down (on his toes) next to the lifter with a pad and pencil or pen in hand.

As any good coach, fresh off the turnip truck, knows, each one of the above errors should be enough to cause the coach to stop the lifter and have him reset up and do it right.

However, since this was not a video, it cannot be said that this poor smuck was actually allowed to lift. My guess is that he was, and kept going until he was hurt or his body simply said “enough of this foolishness” and forced him to stop.

Coaches, pay attention to your trainees and trainees pay attention to your form and technique. It is not good enough to simply lift the weight if you want to keep going long into your life. You must do it correct every single time. Don’t fall into the stupid keep going, do one more rep; you can do it…Bull Sh.t

Find a coach who knows what they are doing; one who hasn’t bought a certification off the internet. Don’t settle for this, you are better than that. Look for the NSCA of ACSM trained coach.

[1] Definition of hunch 1: to bend the body into an arch or hump <Don’t hunch over when you walk.> 2: to draw up close together or into an arch <The cat hunched .